Ali Kazim: The Weight of Blue 12 – 27 May 2023 Frieze No.9 Cork Street London W1S 3LL
Jhaveri Contemporary is pleased to present The Weight of Blue, a solo exhibition by Ali Kazim at Frieze No.9 Cork Street featuring new work by the artist across four ongoing series. Ali Kazim’s subjects have a monumental dignity, suspended as they are in space and time. The colour blue French ultramarine, cobalt, indigo unites the works across this exhibition. Blue is the colour of the sky and water, of vastness and longing. It is associated with melancholy too, and is a metaphor for the spiritual. Floating against unmodulated backgrounds, and saturated with thin layers of watercolour wash, Kazim’s portraits are a tour de force of emotion.
The art of the past – primarily Buddhist sculpture from Gandhara and Mughal and Rajput painting – also informs works in this exhibition. In a series of stunning self-portraits, Kazim fashions himself as a demon from Mara’s Army, referencing a 2nd century AD Gandharan relief from the Peshawar Distrtict, now in the Lahore Museum. Mara was an evil spirit who was afraid that his power would be compromised if Buddha showed all how to attain Enlightenment.
The relief depicts Mara’s army trying to distract Buddha before he achieves Enlightenment, a pivotal episode in the life of the Buddha. The sculptor(s) of the relief depict the forces of delusion as a horde of human-animal hybrids. In his paintings, Ali Kazim uses self-portraiture to engage with this key episode in Buddhist mythology, ‘ani- mating the gestures and expressions of the demonic soldiers of Mara’s army. Modelled on his own face, Kazim’s figures seem to play at being demons, as though trying out and comparing notes on being fiendish.’
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